The Phoenix Flyer

Gov. DeSantis: “Do you think I’m just going to, like, bring in a lot of drugs from Pakistan and off the street?”

By: - April 23, 2019 2:19 pm

Credit: John Moore/Getty Images

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday mocked the pharmaceutical industry’s advertising campaign against his plan to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada, and took a swipe at Asia.

“Do you think I’m just going to, like, bring in a lot of drugs from Pakistan and off the street?” he said. “C’mon. We’re talking about, there’s a process in place. A country like Canada, they’re a wealthy, modern democracy” with safety regulations in place.

The Partnership for Safe Medicines has been running ads attacking House and Senate bills – HB 19 and SB 1528 – that would authorize pharmaceutical imports from Canada, where drugs are considerably cheaper than in the United States. The ads suggest that imported drugs would be unsafe. The group’s members include the pharmaceutical industry, pharmacists, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. DeSantis said the fact that the industry is spending big on advertisements “tells me that what we’re doing would have an impact.”

Not even children’s entertainment is immune from scare ads, he complained during a Tallahassee AARP town hall on prescription drug prices – as he learned while watching Masha and the Bear with his 2-year-old daughter.

“I press play and I’m ready to see this cute little girl with her bear. And instead what comes on is this 30-second ad saying that there are politicians in Tallahassee who want to bring drugs from China so that everyone dies,” DeSantis said. “Jeez – Masha and the Bear?”

Existing federal law allows states to import prescription drugs if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves it, but “The FDA just has not been willing,” DeSantis said.

“This president has indicated to me that he sees that differently and would want to work with us.” DeSantis said. “I deal directly with the principal, so I know we’re of the same mind, but there’s a big labyrinth underneath that that we’re going to have to navigate.”

DeSantis criticized “all these regulations, policies, laws” that make it expensive to bring drugs – even generic ones – to market.

“The safety is going to be there. And, if it’s not there, we wouldn’t want to do it. Obviously, the whole purpose is to have something that’s effective,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis acknowledged arguments against the idea – including that Canada lacks enough drugs to meet added U.S. demand.

“I don’t necessarily agree with that. But if we try and we don’t quite get it done, we’ll try something else,” he said.

He claimed that if Florida could import drugs that the state needs to treat prison inmates suffering from hepatitis C  “we’d save millions and millions of dollars, without question.”

Last week, a federal judge in Tallahassee ordered the Florida Department of Corrections to supply hepatitis C medications to all inmates who need it. The order came in a lawsuit filed nearly two years ago by the Florida Justice Institute.

The House legislation has already cleared its floor vote with bipartisan support and “the prospects look very good” in the Senate, DeSantis said.

If the legislation passes and DeSantis signs it into law, the next step would be to secure FDA approval.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.